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Betting Basketball — How the Line is Laid Out

At America’s Bookie there is a very healthy amount of basketball action, on both the NBA and the college ranks (NCAA). And fundamentally, the idea and procedure of betting on either of them is the same.

So what does a basketball line look like? Well, it’s actually kind of simple. Let’s start with the basics.

Team A +3-1/2
Team B -3-1/2

In this model the team that is listed on top is the road team, while the bottom team is the home team.

The 4-1/2 points that is listed is known as the “pointspread,” and this means that the “favorite,” which is the team minus points (or “laying” them) must win by four points or more to supply a winner for the bettor. The “underdog” is the team that is plus points (or taking them), so that means if the team loses by three points or less, or wins the game straight-up, it supplies the winner for the person placing the wager on that team.

If this line was three points instead of 4-1/2, and the game landed on a three-point margin with Team B winning, the game has no pointspread winner; instead it is a tie, or “push,” and everyone who has placed a wager on the game has their money returned to them.

Customarily the bettor will lay a price of 11/10 in a basketball game, which means that as a standard procedure, it requires a bet of $1.10 to win $1. So specifically, this is what the line would look like:

Team A +4-1/2 -110
Team B -4-1/2 -110

If this dynamic was any different, it would certainly be specified. Here is an example of that:

Team A +4-1/2 -120
Team B -4-1/2 EV

In this particular case, the bettor who is going with the underdog would be laying 6/5, and wagering $1.20 to win $1, instead of $1.10. And the favorite is an even money proposition so a dollar bet will return a win of $1.

The basketball line, as most people involved in sports betting understand, are designed to achieve the goal of balanced action on both sides. And for that purpose, the number that will be moved more often than not is the pointspread itself, rather than the price on either team.

And incidentally, there is another component to a basketball line that is perhaps not used enough by recreational bettor, and that is the money line, which can be most simply defined as a price on either team to win the game outright. Some bettors see more value in placing wagers on teams to win games straight-up.

Here is an example of the money line added to the overall basketball line on a game:

Team A +4-1/2 -110 +160
Team B -4-1/2 -110 -190

Of course, the money line, which is designated as “M Line” at America’s Bookie, is the number all the way to the right. The favorite is laying a price of -190, which means that a bet of $1.90 will be required to make a $1 profit on a winner. The +160 means that a $1 wager will bring a $1.60 profit on the underdog.